This summer is already turning out to be the most magical season I’ve experienced, musically speaking, since 2019.
The shows are coming at a fast and furious rate, and man, does it ever feel good to be out there with the extended musical tribe again. Over the past week, I’ve attended a few shows at the Sportsmen’s Tavern, including a stellar gig by the NYE Dead Band, spent two beautiful nights at the Town Ballroom (Big Wreck, Mike Gordon) and took in my first gig in this year’s Thursday & Main series at Fountain Plaza. It was after the Strictly Hip’s killer “all yer favorites” set at Fountain Plaza that I caught up with guitarist Bruce Wojick, and he hipped me to El Scotcho, his EP with Bruce Wojick & the Struggle. I’ve listened to that soulful rock collection a bunch, while jetting between shows, and I’ve definitely been digging it.)
There’s no slowing down this week, which features the notable return of long-serving Buffalo guitarist/singer/bandleader Jason Staniszewski (Ajamaja, Captain Trips, et al), who moved to Charleston, South Carolina last year, but has come home to lead Talking Dead Heads through a three-gig mini-tour that kicked off on Wednesday evening at Larkin Square, as part of the Keybank Live at Larkin series, continues Thursday, June 22 aboard the USS Little Rock at Liberty Hound, and wraps up at Jack Rabbit on Friday, June 23. Welcome home, Jason!
The concert action continues throughout the early part of next week, with some major shows at Artpark and the Town Ballroom, among others. Here’s a few you should consider…
My Morning Jacket
With guest Kark Denson’s Tiny Universe
Artpark Ampitheatre June 26 at 6 p.m. $40/$60/$80
This one means a lot to me. I’ve been a major fan of My Morning Jacket since the 2003 release of ‘It Still Moves,’ and my first in-the-flesh experience with the band, which took place at the intimate Mohawk Place in downtown Buffalo in May of that year. My love for the band deepened when they circled back through Buffalo for a killer gig at the Showplace Theatre within less than a year of the Mohawk Place barn-burner.
But MMJ moved into the realm of a truly top-of-the-heap ensemble for me when they became the soundtrack to some serious father-son bonding. In 2015, MMJ released The Waterfall, and it quickly became a favorite of both mine and my son Declan’s. When Declan was going to the Berklee College of Music in Boston, our trips back and forth always occurred with The Waterfall as a soundtrack. Now that he’s off in the great wide open, I listen to the album, and feel close to him, wherever he may be in the world. This is one of music’s great gifts to us, this ability to soothe us and to summon the beautiful memories we made while that music played.
I plan to create some more beautiful memories at this Artpark show. With the addition of the face-melting Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe to the bill, this one could well prove to be the show of the summer. See you there.
The Town Ballroom June 29 at 7 p.m. $39.50
Death Kings Official Umphrey’s McGee After-Party
The Town Ballroom Oxford Pennant Stage June 29 at 11 p.m. $20
Over the past 20-odd years, Umphrey’s McGee has played a broad variety of Western New York venues, from Broadway Joe’s to Artpark, Canalside to Thursday at the Square, the Calumet Arts Cafe to the Rapids Theatre. Though many of these shows have entered the arena of myth – the band’s 6/29/11 gig at Artpark was a particularly torrid affair, for example – Buffalo UM fans know that the group’s relationship with the Town Ballroom, where they’ve performed 8 times since 2006, is a particularly special one.
It makes sense, then, that the first Buffalo UM show since prior to the pandemic and the release of the searing, seamless and genre-stretching Asking For A Friend album will take place at the Town Ballroom. This show boasts the additional built-in official after party, which will find Death Kings – the decidedly heavy and progressive passion project birthed as a collaborative effort between Umphrey’s bassist Ryan Stasik and Aqueous guitarist/vocalist Mike Gantzer – performing in the Town Ballroom’s club-within-a-club, the Oxford Pennant Stage (formerly the Leopard Lounge) immediately following UM’s twin sets.
Music is Art Festival Studio Fundraiser
June 29 at GCR Audio @ 510 Franklin $50 musicisart.org
For many of us who have been there from the beginning, the first Music is Art Festival, which took place in 2002, in and around what was then the site of Robby Takac’s Good Charamel Studio at 510 Franklin St. in Allentown, holds a particularly special place in our hearts. As the maiden voyage of what would prove to be the region’s biggest and most consistent single-day celebration of the Buffalo creative arts community, MIA 2002 felt like our city’s own little Lollapalooza – funky, fun, a little bit ragged, but 100% right.
Takac and his team recently renovated and reopened the 510 Franklin location, as a satellite to their main GCR Audio Recording Studios located a block north at 564 Franklin. The old stomping grounds will be the scene of the 2023 MIA Festival fundraiser, and just like that very first year, bands will perform inside the studio, while attendees gather in the parking lot area, where the music will be amplified, and food and drink will be on offer.
Sunday Reign, Chuckie Campbell, Sara Elizabeth, and Letter to Elise will perform beginning at 6 p.m. Takac will host the proceedings, all aimed at raising funds to help keep the Music is Art Festival free. (Oh, and in case you missed it, this year’s MIA Fest takes place at Buffalo Riverworks and the Buffalo Riverfest Park neighborhood on September 9.)